Judge: Oregon shield law doesn’t cover blogger in defamation suit

In a defamation case, a judge for the U.S. District Court in Oregon has ruled that blogger Crystal Cox does not qualify as a journalist and does not get protection under the state’s shield law (ORS 44.510).

Seattle Weekly reported on the ruling Dec. 6.

State shield laws generally protect journalists from revealing sources, among other press protections. The Oregon statute protects any “person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public” from being required to disclose any sources, unpublished information, papers, or work premises.

Cox, who represented herself, has been dealt a fine of $2.5 million for defamatory statements against Obsidian Finance Group. She claims the post in question was factual and invoked the Oregon shield law to protect her from revealing her source. However, one important exception to the shield law is in cases where defamation has been alleged and the defendant (Cox) uses the information as part of his or her defense.

In ruling that Cox is not covered by the shield law, the judge’s opinion cites the statute’s definition of a “medium of communication”: “published or broadcast in a newspaper, magazine, other printed periodical, or by radio,television, or motion picture.”

The opinion goes on to say:

…Although defendant is a self-proclaimed “investigative blogger” and defines herself as “media,” the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the [shield] law.

However, the shield law (read it in the State Code here) offers this definition of “medium of communication” (emphasis added):

“Medium of communication” has its ordinary meaning and includes, but is not limited to, any newspaper, magazine or other periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system.

The shield law in neighboring Washington would most likely have included Cox’s activities, according to that statute’s author, Bruce E. H. Johnson.

Cox plans to appeal, according to Seattle Weekly.

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  • http://larryfeltonjohnson.typepad.com/ Larry Felton Johnson

    My only concern with Koretzky’s event is that it’s being framed as a debate between gamergate and “anti-gamergate”. There is no group that self-identifies as anti-gamergate, and the various people who’ve been targeted by gamergate are unlikely to sit on a panel to debate gamergaters. If Region 3 wants to draw out the grievances gamergaters claim with regard to press ethics, or anything else, it would be better to present it as a panel of gamergaters.

    I’ve been following the gamergate controversy since September of last year, and the likelihood of getting any of the people targeted as “anti-Gamergate” on a panel with GGers is very, very, low. So the whole debate feeds the frenzy by allowing the gamergaters to shout “See! See! Anti-GG is afraid to debate us”.

    It would be just as easy, and roughly equivalent, to get the White House to debate birthers.

  • RikLubking

    “any of the people targeted as “anti-Gamergate”. You mean any of the journalists/bloggers who wrote the massive amount of anti-gamer and anti-gamergate articles and are claiming without citing any actual evidence that there is rampant and systematic misogyny, sexism, intolerance and harassment amongst gamers? Ah no, I suppose you mean the same alleged victims of harassment that these same people have used time and time again to deflect any valid criticism of their work. I say “alleged victims” NOT because I’m denying that they’ve received abusive comments, but because there has never been any actual evidence of a credible threat against them. Police reports, FBI statements etc all point to the contrary, but that is always omitted in reports and GG are always characterised as a violent hate-mob. Harassment is terrible, sexism is terrible, noone is denying that, but unsubstantiated claims of either cannot be used to completely censor a conversation and demonise and silence people who disagree with the accusers political ideology. THAT is exactly what has been going on here and that is one of the things that we would like to address at AirPlay.

    Your comment only serves to underscore the need for this debate and illustrates the unquestioned bias and disdain that GamerGate has had to deal with for over 10 months now. Regardless of the previous commenter’s tone, I would like to sincerely thank SPJ for giving GamerGate a chance to tell our side of the story without being labeled as misogynysts even before we can open our mouths. I will fully admit that GG can be a handful and that internet and gaming culture can seem strange and overwhelming to outsiders (even to insiders sometimes ;)), but even though we are a rag-tag bunch, we are a group of PEOPLE gathered around our love for games, not our hate for women.

    So thanks for AirPlay SPJ! Let’s hope that despite the recent troubles AirPlay will go on and that it will be HONEST to everyone involved, that’s all we’re really asking for. Peace!


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